$8M gift nets Detroit new police, EMS vehicles
A group of business leaders footed the bill for the 10 new ambulances and 15 new police cruisers
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Carlos Smith gazed in awe at the 25 gleaming new public safety vehicles that had rolled into Hart Plaza today — a gift to the city from Detroit’s business community.
“I can’t wait to see them on the street,” said Smith, 20, of Detroit. “It’s a blessing that they donated them.”
Sporting colorful decals of the city skyline, the vehicles are the first of 100 cruisers and 23 ambulances to be put into service thanks to an $8-million donation from the city’s business community.
The vehicles will replace portions of a dilapidated fleet known for its advanced age and high mileage that have caused breakdowns and delayed response times. In January, a 6-year-old boy died in a house fire in southwest Detroit because an ambulance could not get to him in time, and police cruisers — many of which are years beyond their own recommended replacement ages — sometimes have to transport victims to hospitals, according to earlier Free Press reports.
During the first quarter of this year, frequently only 10 to 14 of the city’s 36 ambulances were in service, according to a report from emergency manager Kevyn Orr.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Fire Commissioner Donald Austin accepted the keys to 15 new police cars and 10 new ambulances at Hart Plaza today after the vehicles paraded down Woodward Avenue.
Next week, the gleaming new vehicles will hit the streets in earnest.
Roger Penske, who spoke for the business community during a news conference at the plaza, described the donation as a perfect example of the city and private sector working together. Despite the often dire news about Detroit, the city is still vibrant, he said.
“We’ve got a tale of two cities,” he said, noting the daily stories about Detroit’s financial crisis. “But so many good things are happening in our city.”
Penske called the approximately $161,000 ambulances the best in the world. Including necessary modifications, the police cruisers should cost about $60,000. The ambulances are being built by Horton Ambulance, and the cruisers are a mix of Dodge Chargers, Ford Interceptors and Chevrolet Caprices.
Craig said the vehicle donations mark a great day for the city.
“This is evidence Detroit is on the move,” he said.
Austin said the donation would take the city’s EMS fleet “off life support.”
Several officials stressed that the new vehicles would benefit the entire city, a possible reaction to complaints from some quarters that downtown and Midtown get a larger share of public safety resources than other areas.
“We love our city. We love Detroit. This is a by-product of our commitment,” Penske said, noting that the business community wants to be known in the city’s neighborhoods, too.
Mayor Dave Bing said the business community does not always get credit for the things it does.
He said the city did not have the funds to buy or lease new vehicles, so he and others told business leaders about the city’s vehicle needs earlier this year and the business community stepped up.
But Bing noted that the city would have to do a better job of raising revenue for its service needs in the future.
“It is not the business community’s responsibility to fund everything in Detroit,” he said.
Bing has previously said the vehicles would not be city property but that a nonprofit corporation would be set up to lease them. Bing offered a public thank-you to Penske Corp., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Quicken Loans, the Kresge Foundation, Platinum Equity and Shinola.
The mayor called the donation of the “state-of-the-art” vehicles the second phase of the city’s public safety improvements after the unveiling of the new seven-story Public Safety Headquarters on 3rd Street in June.
Evelyn Cotter, 70, of Grosse Pointe was one of a number of bystanders who had walked to the plaza to see the new vehicles. She said the vehicles look impressive and would be great for the city.
“The cars look so cool with that decal on the side,” she said.
Copyright 2013 Detroit Free Press
|McClatchy-Tribune News Service|
All Rights Reserved